17 Of The Most Iconic Wedding Dresses Of All Time

The V&A’s much-anticipated Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 exhibition opens this weekend. To celebrate the exhibition we thought we’d look back over the world’s most fabulous wedding dresses, ever. And the bride wore…

Most iconic wedding dresses
(Image credit: Getty)

The V&A’s much-anticipated Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 exhibition opens this weekend. To celebrate the exhibition we thought we’d look back over the world’s most fabulous wedding dresses, ever. And the bride wore…

1. Wallis Simpson

The twice-divorced American married King Edward VIII in 1937, choosing an exquisitely fitted column gown and corseted jacket. Edward’s desire to marry Wallis ultimately led to his abdication in December 1936. American designer Mainbocher added a hidden detail to the minimalist gown; the zigzag seam at the back of the neck symbolised a healing wound, and the significance of the stitching remained a secret between Wallis and the designer.

2. Queen Elizabeth II

When Her Majesty wed Prince Philip in 1947, aged 21, the nation was still suffering the effects of the Second World War. The Norman Hartnell gown was made of ivory satin and decorated with 10,000 white pearls and silver thread and her veil was held in place by a tiara lent to the princess by her mother.

3. Jacqueline Bouvier

Jackie O’s neo-Victorian slim fitting silk taffeta dress featured a tight bodice and a billowing circular skirt that was decorated with tiny wax flowers. The dress was designed by New York designer Ann Lowe for her marriage to John F Kennedy at his Hammersmith Farm on Rhode Island in 1953. She finished the look with little white gloves and a full veil. Together the pair became symbolic of two true American sweethearts. Jackie was widowed 10 years later, when JFK was assassinated in 1963.

4. Grace Kelly

Grace’s wedding dress has become one of the most celebrated gowns in history. Designed by MGM costume designer Helen Rose, the gown transformed the Hitchcock blonde into real-life European royalty. The gown was made from 25 yards of silk taffeta, pearls and antique rose-point lace by three-dozen seamstresses, who worked on it for six weeks. The bride carried a pearl-encrusted prayer book with her down the isle. The dress is said to have inspired the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding gown.

Grace Kelly's Diamond Jewellery

Grace Kelly's Diamond Jewellery
(Image credit: Rex Features)

5. Audrey Hepburn

In 1954 Audrey Hepburn married actor Mel Ferrer after starring with him on Broadway in Ondine. The style icon plumped for a fifties ballerina-length style dress designed by Pierre Balmain and wore roses in her hair; the gamine beauty looked every inch the fairytale bride. Their marriage lasted 14 years, until December 1968.

6. Elizabeth Taylor

If ever there was a woman who liked a wedding it was Liz Taylor. Elizabeth Taylor married her fourth husband Eddie Fisher in 1959. Eddie, a singer, had left his wife Debbie Reynolds to marry Taylor. Elizabeth wore a striking bosky-green, hooded dress, with matching silk shoes. Taylor’s third husband, Mike Todd had died in a plane crash in March 1958.

7. Bianca Pérez-Mora Macias

Was there ever a cooler bride than Bianca Jagger at her St Tropez nuptials to Mick Jagger in 1971? We doubt it. A pregnant Bianca wore a white maxi skirt and a Yves Saint Laurent Le Smoking jacket. The shirt she intended to wear under her jacket no longer fit, and so naturally, the bride simply opted to wear nothing underneath. Bianca’s hat was trimmed with fabric roses and hung with a short tulle veil. A voilà - the most rock n’ roll wedding look, ever.

8. Mia Farrow

When Mia Farrow married Frank Sinatra in June 1966 she bucked the contemporary trend for feminine wedding dresses and wore a neat skirt suit. Mia’s cropped hair and the minimal tailoring mean this look still feels incredibly modern. Mia was 21 at the time and Sinatra was 50. The pair were married in 15 minutes at The Sands Hotel in Las Vegas.

9. Yoko Ono

The artist married John Lennon in Gibraltar in 1969. Never one to fall in line, Yoko sported a very counter-culture mini-dress, kneesocks, and a white felt hat. John was also matching in a white suit. The pair looked about ready to play a game of tennis. Yoko’s unique mod style is proof that the pudding-style big dress isn’t always necessary.

10. Princess Diana

Lady Diana Spencer’s gown inspired a generation of brides when she wed Prince Charles in 1981. The Elizabeth Emmanuel dress was celebrated for its enormous Cinderalla volume and neverending train. The dress was marked by its romantic flounce collar and puffed sleeves. An 18-carat gold studded horseshoe with diamonds was stitched into the back of the dress, whilst a tiny blue bow was sewn into the waistband.

11. Jerry Hall

Jerry Hall and Mick Jagger’s marriage in 1990 in Bali was never going to be conventional. The bride eschewed traditional white in favour of a traditional Balinese dress and full headdress for the unofficial Balinese ceremony.

12. Katie Holmes

Seven months after the birth of their daughter, Suri, and a year after Tom Cruise jumped all over Oprah’s upholstery, Katie Holmes wore an off-the-shoulder gown by Giorgio Armani for her November 2006 wedding to Tom Cruise in Italy.

13. Gwen Stefani

John Galliano created the pink gown that Gwen Stefani wore in September 2002, when she married rocker Gavin Rossdale in Covent Garden. The gown’s dip-dyed pink hem meant Gwen looked the epitome of punk-cool. After the wedding, Gwen donated the dress to the Victoria & Albert Museum, saying it was 'a piece of art'.

14. Kate Middleton

Kate Middleton married Prince William at Westminster Abbey in 2011. The Royal Household’s decision to keep mum about potential designers of the Duchess of Cambridge’s dress lead to intense global speculation. The designer was only revealed as Sarah Burton (creative director at Alexander McQueen) as Kate arrived at The Abbey. The dress featured a strapless corset overlaid with lace . On closer inspection, the lace detail featured the four emblems of the UK – the rose, daffodil, thistle and shamrock. Kate wore a Cartier tiara that was lent to her by The Queen and was her 'something borrowed.'

15 .Keira Knightley

Keira Knightley secretly married musician beau James Righton, of Klaxons fame, in the South of France in 2011. Instead of calling on pal Karl to knock up a couture Chanel creation, Keira simply opted to go for something already hanging in her wardrobe. Granted the dress was Chanel Haute Couture (as was the jacket) but the strapless tulle number was paired with a floral garland in her hair, some raybans and FLATS. Bridezillas, take note.

Keira Knightley Chanel wedding dress

Keira Knightley Chanel wedding dress
(Image credit: Rex)

16. Kate Moss

La Moss married The Kills frontman Jamie Hince in a John Galliano gown in the Cotswolds in July 2011. Her dress was the perfect Alka-Seltzer to our royal wedding hangover: a simple, nostalgic, bias-cut, dress with a splash of hippie-chic.

17 .Sarah Jessica Parker (sort of)

Ok, so it wasn’t a real life wedding, but we had to get it in. Sarah Jessica Parker's Vivienne Westwood gown in Sex And The City: The Movie created waves. It was architectural, avant-garde and she wore a bird in her hair, but hey it’s SJP, of course it looked good.


(Image credit: Sara Jaye/REX)

Now here are 5 celeb weddings that will cost more than you'll earn, ever...

The leading destination for fashion, beauty, shopping and finger-on-the-pulse views on the latest issues. Marie Claire's travel content helps you delight in discovering new destinations around the globe, offering a unique – and sometimes unchartered – travel experience. From new hotel openings to the destinations tipped to take over our travel calendars, this iconic name has it covered.